History | Jun 16 2018

On This Day: Roberto Duran was born in 1951

Matt Christie profiles the legendary 'Hands of Stone', Roberto Duran
roberto duran
Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports

ROBERTO DURAN despised Sugar Ray Leonard and all that the flashy Olympic gold medallist stood for. Even after beating his rival in 1980, he aggressively rejected the traditional post-fight embrace, and preferred to blow mock kisses at his rival in interviews rather than impart any words of commiseration. But Duran was born to be wild; if compassion and kindness had interfered with his soul, boxing history would have been starved of one of its greatest warriors.

Duran was at his best during that June 1980 encounter with “Sugar”, but the sabre-toothed demons within conspired against him during the rematch that took place just five months later. His manager Carlos Eleta organised the return so quickly because he was concerned that Duran’s gluttonous living outside the ring could destroy him. But it was Leonard in the mood for destruction that night inside the New Orleans Superdome.

He changed his game plan from the first fight and taunted Duran’s proud psyche with an outrageous blend of skill and showboating. Boxing had never been so intoxicating. Although Roberto was still in the bout on the scorecards after seven rounds, his stamina and temper were making their escape. In round eight, with the session coming to an end, Duran signalled he no longer wanted to fight. Whatever his final words were – many dispute it was ‘No mas’ (‘No more’) – there can be no mistaking he was shaking his head and fists in surrender. Roberto knew he was being made to look foolish and wanted no part of it. But Duran made a fool out of himself and it nearly ruined him.